What the High Dive Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Dealing With Fear

A project may seem wonderful in your head, but sometimes you freeze when it comes time to make the leap. Here are four steps to deal with that anxiety.

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By Sumi Krishnan

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Do you remember going to the pool as a kid? The first thing you probably wanted to do was tackle the high dive. It was the biggest challenge, and your friends would be way more impressed by a nonchalant high-dive jump than anything else.

Entrepreneurs are a lot like that. We like big, audacious goals -- sexy, shiny projects that will get us the most admiration from our peers (and investors) who saw us make the jump. But how often did you approach the high dive -- maybe even climb all the way up -- only to get completely overwhelmed?

"What if I miss the pool?"

"What if I do a belly flop and everyone laughs at me?"

Entrepreneurs are like that, too. A project seems wonderful in our heads, but sometimes we freeze when it comes time to make the leap. We all have those voices that speak to us in whispers when we allow ourselves to doubt.

Related: 4 Ways to Overcome Your Unreasonable Fears

Admit it: those voices and fears sometimes cripple us before we ever get started. After some soul searching, I've discovered a few steps to break through my fears and get back up to the high dive. Any entrepreneurs struggling with fear can follow the same steps.

1. Write out the big goal.

The first step is to get the goal out of your head. Write down, on an actual piece of paper, what you want, the impact you'll make and how the world will look after it's all said and done.

Writing the goal down will make things feel more concrete and doable. For example, I'm launching a six-month journey of self-discovery for a group of 100 badass women to help them perform at their best and accomplish an audacious goal. Ironically, every time I would dream about this program, I would find myself blocked. I knew it was a great idea, but I was intimidated about whether it would be a success, whether we'd get the right women in the program and whether they'd get the results they wanted.

I'd get really excited about it but keep doubting myself and doubling back. Once, I literally drew out how my plan would look, how it would feel and the impact it would have -- I felt more grounded. Then, I worked with my coach to break down the big vision into a strategy. Big goals seem a lot less scary when your game plan is neatly organized on a piece of paper.

2. Question the fear.

Along with the goal, write down your fears. Be absolutely honest with yourself. What's keeping you from moving forward? Are you afraid of embarrassing yourself -- of belly flopping? Do you worry you don't have what it takes?

Don't judge yourself right now. Just write.

Related: How Taking Up Skydiving Has Helped Me Become More Successful in Business

For me, it was self-doubt. I realized I didn't know whether I could do it -- a six-month program for 100 people takes a lot of thought and planning. Could I take these women on a journey to blow past their own blocks when it seemed like I couldn't get past my own?

3. Discover your low dive.

Test, and keep testing, your energy level. Just because something is exciting doesn't necessarily mean it's right for now. Instead, find the goal that keeps your energy in a state of movement. If you go back to this less exciting "low dive" and take a few jumps, then you'll probably gain some confidence to tackle the high dive.

For me, finding my low dive meant first launching a three-hour one-on-one pilot course. It meant a lower commitment and the opportunity to test some things before launching the full six-month initiative. This low dive was an awesome way to build my confidence and get the kinks out.

4. Accept and keep moving.

Accept your anxieties, and take the next little baby step anyway. Some anxieties are even healthy. Anxiety can keep you accountable and battle-ready.

Every time I approach a high dive in my life, I feel the same butterflies, even if I've performed the low dive a few times now. Sometimes, you just need to accept that a high dive will always trigger some level of anxiety -- it means you're going for something big. Don't let the anxiety cripple you. Own it, know you're in good company and take your next step.

Related: Is Fear Stopping You From Going After What You Want?

Sumi Krishnan

CEO of K4 Solutions

Sumi Krishnan is the CEO of Falls Church, Va.-based K4 Solutions, which provides technology and staffing services. She also offers success coaching to aspiring and established female entrepreneurs.

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